Monday, April 27, 2020

India 2020 Trip Report

March 5-14, 2020

Six Vol State students, three faculty members (one retired), and a dean went on the trip of a lifetime to India. They barely knew one another when they started out. Ten days later and over 17,000 miles traveled, the group named itself the “cricket team” and shed tears when it was time to go home. Rich and meaningful cultural, social, and yes, even academic, experiences had forever changed their lives. Students studied art, literature, and history while experiencing Indian culture on a jam-packed tour through Dehli, Agra, and Jaipur.

The group learns about the ancient art of Jaipur Block Printing.

Jessie Birdwell showing a block print she made.
Art students Kyra Lord and Keely Beasley and professors Felber and Mulcahy practice drawing and painting on blue pottery pieces, Jaipur.

Student Leslie Vega tries her hand at carpet making, Jaipur.

Students Kyra Lord and Keely Beasley on a rickshaw ride, Old Dehli.

Jaylon Hughes, Keely Beasley, Prof. Abby Felber, Jessie Birdwell, Leslie Vega, and Kyra Lord pause for a group photo at the Holi festival. Holi, an ancient Hindu festival, is also known as the “festival of colors” and signifies the triumph of love and good over evil.

Holi was a favorite for everyone, especially for Jaylon Hughes. Jay said “My teacher asked us to write about the best day of your life the other day, and I couldn’t do it. It’s because today hadn’t happened yet. This was the best day of my life.”

Student Cindy Landskron inside one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid, which was constructed in the mid 17th Century.
Students learned how precious stones are in-laid in beautiful hand-carved marble deco then had time to browse and shop in a Jaipur marble store.
The group posed just behind the famous Patrika Gate in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Lunch at Sheroes’ Hangout, a place where acid attack survivors are empowered to work, live, and thrive.
Jessie Birdwell, Leslie Vega, and Keely Beasley pose with students at Taabar wearing their new Vol State t-shirts.
Prof. Deb Moore engages with a Taabar student about his art project. Taabar is a non-profit organization that provides community-based rehabilitation for children and youth who are in difficult circumstances.
Visiting the famous Taj Mahal, an over 400-year old mausoleum located on the Yamuna river in the city of Agra.
Seated on steps inside the Nahargarh Fort, commonly known as the Tiger Fort.
World Peace Gong: Located at the martydom site of Mahatma Gandhi
Anonymous student feedback:

·       Going to India was a life changing experience. It showed me how to see love and beauty around me. It all was amazing to me. I loved seeing their customs and how much love they show to each other. Their history was beautiful seeing their temples and forts. Their music was incredible too! I learned to always appreciate what others value.

·       It was a nice reminder that we, America, are not the only ones here. The way we were welcomed with open arms, will stay with me forever and I will embrace other cultures and people with an open mind and open arms.

·       It helped me to be more open and confident in sharing others cultures rather than simply just observing.

·       It was amazing to be able to study the places that we learn about in class, in real life. This helped me to better understand the concepts we had previously learned and learn even more.

·       Art was everywhere, and Deb made sure we each had a poem every day, regardless of what class we signed up for.

·       I loved everything. We saw the Taj Mahal, we rode elephants, although if you preferred not to, you didn’t have to and no one was judging. We went to temples, we went to a bazaar which is like a huge flea market. We went to amazing store and shops. It was something I will never forget.

·       The excursions were an excellent blend of visiting ancient sites, such as the Taj Mahal; active community events, like joining the worshipers at the Krishna temple; shopping in specially craft centers. The most unusual and moving visit was to the Taabar Lost Boys Home.

·       There was not one place on this trip that I did not enjoy. Even though the bus rides were long and we woke up early everyday, there was never a time it wasn’t worth it or I felt too exhausted.

Graduate Profile: Justin Frech

The career pathway for a professional musician is a bit different these days. Justin Frech began his career on YouTube, at the age of 12.

“Me and my dad would take a Bluetooth speaker and put it in the freezer or somewhere at a grocery store and play fake farts at people,” Justin said. That comedy eventually developed into parodies and skits and included not only his dad, John, but also his mom, Becky. The Hyundai car company found the Frech family and put them in an international ad campaign. Justin was officially hooked on entertainment media.
“My dad was an audio engineer and I kind of grew up around music. He worked at Gibson guitars, so there were always Gibsons lying around for me to pluck on.”

Justin took his talents to Vol State and will be one of the first students to graduate in the new Professional Music Associate of Applied Science degree program. “It teaches you what you need as a modern musician: audio engineering, songwriting, producing, and music classes. It touches every aspect of the music industry.”

He is a multi-instrumentalist and drums were a secondary skill, until recently. “When I first got to Vol State Ben Graves recruited me to be a drummer. I was soon playing in the Jazz and Rock Ensembles. I played on many of the songs on the CD recording project at the college. I’m learning all these new skills rhythmically.”

Justin understands the power of Internet and has continued to develop relationships in social media.
“I just finished playing guitar for an influencer called Madison Rose. We’ve know each other since we were 12 because of YouTube. You can be in the middle of Kansas these days and reach millions of people worldwide.”

Justin plans to continue his musical pathway at Belmont University, where he has applied to the very competitive songwriting program. “I have my fingers crossed.” The life of a young music entrepreneur may sound very modern, but for Justin it is rooted in something elemental. “Me and my family have this special creative space that we hang in. My dad works very closely with my music. It’s a great thing that we all get to do together.”
You can check out Justin’s music and comedy on his YouTube channel.
You can also find his latest music on Spotify. 

Graduate Profile: Brenda Trask

It all seemed hazy at first. Those equations. The symbols written out on the white board. It had been decades since seeing them in high school.
“I recognized this and recognized that,” said 53-year-old Brenda Trask, a TN Reconnect student. “It’s been a bit of a challenge. When I started going to school I was getting straight As. And then math came along.”

Math is often the elephant in the room for adult students coming to college. For Brenda Trask fitting in on the Vol State campus was not a problem, but recent experience was. “I was not uncomfortable at all. What was a little intimidating were the younger students who had just come out of high school and were more familiar with the concepts.”
Trask said she caught up with college math thanks to tutoring in the Learning Commons academic support center and the work of understanding faculty members. “I’ve learned a lot from those professors. They’ve been so willing to help.”

The Hendersonville mom also received emotional support from her adult children. “They’re the ones that pushed me and encouraged me to do it. They’re both in college themselves, right now. I moved around the country following my ex-husband’s career. I really hadn’t found myself. I focused on my husband and my family. After the divorce, I decided to go back to school. It was time to focus on me.”

Brenda works with the State of Tennessee Division of Tenncare in Human Resources. She said the college degree is essential if she wants to move forward in her career. She plans to graduate this year with a Vol State associate’s degree in management and then continue to Tennessee State University in the fall. She looks back on her Vol State experience with fondness.

“I do enjoy it. I’m president of NSLS (National Society for Leadership and Success) on campus. That has been extremely rewarding. It’s built my confidence and self-esteem.”

She, along with so many graduates, is disappointed that there will not be a traditional graduation ceremony this year, but the May 16 virtual ceremony and the accomplishment will still be special for her.

“I have wanted to do it for so long and didn’t realize how much I missed that opportunity. It will be very emotional leaving Vol State. It was all so worth it.”
Pictured left to right: Brenda Trask with Dakota Grady, an NSLS guest speaker, and Tabitha Sherrell with Student Engagement and Support.

The Importance of Faculty Photos on eLearn

We had a student reach out to us on social media recently. She wondered why more faculty didn't have photos available. I explained that we had done a big push to get more photos on the college website. Her response was enlightening. She doesn't use the web much, she said. She meant on eLearn. With more classes online this summer, it's a reminder about the importance of making a personal connection on eLearn. Those photos and bios may mean more to students than we think, especially now.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A Note from a Student

We received this note from a student over the weekend. We thought we would share it with campus.

My name is Elisha and I am currently a student at Vol State. I just wanted to take a minute and say THANK YOU to everyone who is on staff for working so hard and going the extra mile to make sure we still not only have an education during this crisis, but an AMAZING education! My professors have went over and beyond to keep in contact and to continue bringing forth incredible material to help us learn. Thank you for offering services like renting out laptops and webcams to those students who might not have them. Vol State has been such an influential step in helping me better myself and I just wanted to make sure that everyone who works here knows that YOU ALL are changing lives. Much love, prayers, appreciation, and gratitude to you all. 

May God bless. 

Thank you, 


Graduate Profile: Rita Neal

COVID-19 has changed the employment world for many people. For soon-to-be Vol State graduate, Rita Neal, that has meant multiple job offers, well before graduation.
“I can’t wait to help them,” she said. “You don’t hear about the Respiratory Therapists on the news, it’s all about the nurses. But they are on the front lines as well. There are a lot of oxygenation issues with COVID-19 and we run the ventilators. The hospitals want all of the Respiratory Care graduates.”

The 47-year-old is excited to graduate from the Vol State Respiratory Care program this spring, but she has had plenty of struggles along the way.

“I have a form of dyslexia that makes it very hard to read. I had to teach myself how to do it on my own. I did the best I could with my first college classes. When I got to Vol State, my instructor in Respiratory Care could see what was going on and she asked why I wasn’t using Disability Services. It made a big difference. When you’re taking a test you only have so much time. I have an electronic reader for exams and that has helped a lot.”

And it wasn’t just a learning disability she had to contend with. The mother of two adult children found herself commuting from her home in Sparta to Nashville to care for her sick mom. “I was going to the hospital, practically living there, and going to school at the same time for nearly three weeks. I have had her move in with me.”

Neal survived a divorce and had to rebuild her life. Add to all of that: a tornado ripped off parts of her porch recently. But despite the hardships you can hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about her new career.

“I enjoy helping people. I’ve been a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for quite a few years. My dad had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for years, so I knew a bit about Respiratory Care.”

Neal will start work at Skyline Medical Center in May. She still has to pass the state board exam, but she’s confident that her training has prepared her.

“It’s almost surreal. I’ve always wanted a college degree. Now that I’ve gotten to this point it doesn’t seem real. I feel like I’ve finally accomplished something.”

Ophthalmic Program Trip to Guatemala

Vol State students and faculty travel each year for Study Abroad trips. They are organized within a specific class or program. This report comes from our yearly Ophthalmic Technician program trip to Guatemala over Spring Break. 
“This year the Hendersonville Rotary Club and Vol State Ophthalmic Guatemala Medical Mission faced some challenges due to COVID-19. Two days before the clinics were to begin, the town where the clinics were to take place decided to cancel the clinics due to fears of the COVID-19 virus.  It takes several months to plan and coordinate a medical mission trip, so the last minute cancellation left the mission in jeopardy of not taking place this year. However, due to the hard work and connections of the Las Americas Rotary Club (the group’s partner in Guatemala), the clinics were able to take place and bring healthcare to two other communities in need.
- Alisha Cornish, Ophthalmic Technician Program Director
Many of the trips this year were impacted by COVID-19 concerns. Vol State carefully reviews all safety factors before sending a group. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Vol State in the News

Changes to our graduation ceremony, from in-person to virtual, have been of interest to the news media. The Tennessean has this story.

Vol State Academic Programs on the Front Lines: Logistics

Don Ellis (left) receiving an industry award in 2014
There are several Vol State academic programs on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. This piece is the first in a periodic series as the faculty in those areas explain the impact.
We all have seen the news, the high demand for medical supplies from manufacturers to first responders and the ability to move them quickly. There is also the need to move necessities into supermarkets and pharmacies. The trucking industry is offering drivers bonuses and higher pay to move supplies to where they are needed. DOT has lifted restrictions on drivers to allow them to work outside of normal constraints to move critical freight. Over 1000 U.S. companies have started to make critical medical supplies; GM making ventilators, Ford and Apple making face shields, however only 3 have come to terms with FEMA. Supply chains get complicated in any disaster scenario.

We have also seen the effects of a global supply chain. China sending masks, Russia sending ventilators. At the same time, we see American manufacturers exporting these same medical supplies. What the news doesn’t report, what is in those contracts with foreign buyers. All companies have legally binding contracts and even though it looks bad there may be a reason behind the export.

Then there is another side to the story, the sharp reduction in freight movement. American shipper states: “Sea-Intelligence reported on Sunday that the number of pandemic-induced blank sailings had risen to 45 from two. Just three days later, the tally had skyrocketed. Jensen calculated that the number of blank (cancelled) sailings had reached 120 as of Wednesday.”

The airline industry is trying to substitute freight for passengers, and TQL, the second largest freight brokerage has laid off 700 in one day. And, if there is no freight to broker, that leaves trucking companies cutting head count too. As the economy continues to contract Logistics will continue to contract with it. In the April 10 Freightwaves daily update; “In an optimistic scenario, global trade in 2020 would decline by 13% year over year — about the same as the drop seen during the Great Recession, according to the World Trade Organization.” For those in logistics management in essential jobs this is a boom, for the rest of the logistics community this is a bust.

-Don Ellis, Vol State Logistics and Supply Chain Management